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Communications of the ACM


. . . And the Computer Plays Along

colorful jumble of music notes, illustration

Credit: Getty Images

A concert held at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the fall to celebrate the opening of the university's new museum included a performer that was invisible to the audience but played a key role in forming the melodic sound: an artificial intelligence (AI) system that responded to the musicians and improvised in real time.

In a piece from "Brain Opera 2.0," the system starts by growling to the trumpet, then finds pitches with the trombone, becomes melodic with the sax, and ultimately syncs with the instruments by the time everyone comes in, explains Tod Machover, a music and media professor at MIT and head of the MIT Media Lab, who served as composer/conductor of the two-night concert event.


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